Consider this section a New York user's manual if you will.
Thesee are simple a few tips simple that will potentially enhance your experience of New York. Some of them are literal tips wising you up on things you should know that probably nobody will tell you because they'll assume you know. Some others -- the ones you're more likely to appreciate -- are tip offs to make New York cheaper, better and just as enjoyable.
New York City has a thing called 'Cultural Institutions Group', a bunch of about 35 institutions dedicated to improve the city's culture. Some of them, like the American Musem of Natural History are important tourist sites. Nonetheless, they all get about 11% of the city's budgets every year.
This means that they they have a standing 'pay what you wish' admission policy on all days at all times. This means you can get in by, say, $1, or a few coins (coins are the bottom of the economy pyramid in America) or nothing at all. The museums themselves suggest an admission fee of about $20 and most tourists assume than by "suggested admission fee" they mean "required admission fee". Not true. You can walk in free if you feel like it.
If you feel guilty about it for some reason, think about the inordinate amount of money you are providing the city with through indirect taxes.
This is a mistake.
Some people think that paying to go to Ellis Island, and then being pushed and pulled by groups of Japanese tourists and European teenagers is part of the New York experience. We're not one to deny that. But we can advise you to ditch the trip to the Statue of Liberty altogether and simply take the Staten Island Ferry. The view of Lady Liberty is much better over there -- much more unique and just as good as seeing it up close. Besides, the statue herself spends half of her lifetime closed so it's not like you are missing out on much. And you get such a fantastic view of the NYC Waterfalls.
The same applies for the Empire State Building. Yes, you can climb up and see the Manhattan skyline and make jokes about the 1929 Wall Street Crash. But you can do exactly the same thing away from tourists. Just go near the Empire State, take a good look at it, and then go to a bar atop a New York hotel. You will spend the same amount of money on the drink you order than or walking up the Empire State, but you will see the whole New York skyline from a much better perspective.
Quality theater doesn't come cheap.
Ever since Broadway was resurrected in the 1980's-1990's, ticket prices have skyrocketed in a way that a whole subculture of re-selling tickets for cheaper has developed. Both online and onsite you will discover a lot of people to trying to make a quick buck by either selling fake tickets or end up charging you too much.
Broadway producers became aware of this and offered a practical solution: the rush ticket system. It's clean, it's legal and it's effective: everyday, a certain amount of tickets are saved for that same day's performance. They are sold on a first-come-first-served basis with a considerable (50-80%) discount.
All you need to know is what show you are watching and that box offices usually open between 10AM and noon on Broadway. It's the best way to start your day -- by ensuring yourself a seat in one of the best night activities New York has to offer.
For better or worse, smoking indoors is allowed only in few countries in the world. One by the one, major cities in every continent have adopted the smoking ban that prevents people from lighting up a cigarette in public places like bars, restaurants, stores and anywhere else. One of the main inspirations for this policy was New York City who, in 2003, signed on a law that tied her to California as the toughest anti-smoking city in the U.S.
But New York City had its own ideas. Well, basically it had its own, freezing climate, much more averse than that of California. So when New Yorkers found out they had to step outside to smoke, retaliation starting. A series of bars started to allow illicit smoking -- especially in the Meatpacking District and in the Financial District (when a Todd English restaurant opened in the latter neighborhood in 2008, cigarette girls handed out free smokes for costumers to consume liberally -- but that's only the most official of the instances.
There are plenty of smoker's guides online in which the most avid consumer can find places in which to smoke in without having to step outside to the snow.
Smokers will be welcomed in bars like Southside (1 Cleveland Plaza) or Circa Tabac in the South Village (32 Watts Street), which has an astounding ventilation system that will allow you to bring friends.
Everywhere, smokers better beware.
This one only affects those those who travel to New York in the winter. Beware of touching any button in any elevator with your bare hand -- the heating system in the buildings will create static electricity which will happily jump off the metal elevator buttons and onto your bare flesh.
Better use an instrument like a leather wallet, a cellphone, or anytrhing else that's not an electric conductor.